It’s 2022, and one species is coming out from beneath the earth and into the mainstream: the mushroom. These species are neither plants nor animals but living organisms that belong to the Fungi Kingdom (fitting name, if we must say so ourselves.)Whether it’s headlines surrounding a Netflix documentary, discoveries of plastic-eating mushrooms, or recent tech news that saw mushroom-based innovation company MycoWorks raise $125M - the discussion surrounding fungi is coming from all angles onto center stage. And with good reason, precisely due to its versatile applications. Couple the power of nature with the power of technology, and you’ve got yourself a power-house ingredient that’s creating breakthroughs across industries. For corporations, this creates unexpected commercial and innovation opportunities on various fronts.
"Couple the power of nature with the power of technology, and you’ve got yourself a power-house ingredient that’s creating breakthroughs across industries."
Here are a few of the innovative spaces we’ve got our eyes on:
The engineering and construction industry (E&C) plays a significant role in the climate crisis, with cement being a major culprit. That’s why there’s an increasing interest in alternative bio-materials in the construction industry.
Italy-based Mogu has developed building materials based on mycelium (the network of threads beneath a mushroom), including floor tiles and acoustic panels. Meanwhile, FUNGAR has created mycelium bricks that could potentially replace cement, even though there’s a long way to go until this development is on par with the characteristics of cement.
As the conversation surrounding mental health is coming out of the taboo, innovations are being developed to facilitate the growing need for support. The use of mushrooms (especially, psilocybin aka “magic mushrooms”) is gaining traction as a therapy for various mental health concerns, including post traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Renewed studies and clinical trials by leading universities such as Johns Hopkins and Yale are part of the reason why the use of ‘magic mushrooms’ in a controlled setting is gaining mainstream attention. In 2020, Oregon legalized psilocybin for use in therapy, and in 2021, other states loosened penalties. Meanwhile, psychedelic startups are raising millions of dollars and even debuting on the NASDAQ (take Peter Thiel-backed Atai with a $3.19B valuation for example). These startups are gaining market share but not without criticism and without regulatory hurdles. While it may seem like we are in a “psychedelic gold rush”, this is not without risk.
"When it comes to the Fungi Kingdom and innovation, perhaps it isn’t about inventing something new but exploring the “technologies” found in nature."
the AI-powered therapy enhancing music app Wavepaths, that recently raised a $4.5M seed round. As digital therapeutics gain traction in response to the pandemic, it is likely that those digital experiences designed specifically for psilocybin therapies will increase too.
Another interesting growing market is the auxiliary technologies being developed for the aforementioned therapies. Wearable devices to administer formulations such as the ones by Bexson Biomedical are planned to begin human trials in 2022. A different example is the AI-powered therapy enhancing music app Wavepaths, that recently raised a $4.5M seed round. As digital therapeutics gain traction in response to the pandemic, it is likely that those digital experiences designed specifically for psilocybin therapies will increase too.
Mushroom ‘leather’ is perhaps one of the most advanced, ready-to-use, scalable materials made from the organism. Most recently, Mercedes Benz’s announced the release of their new car, VISION EQXX that uses Mylo™, a mushroom leather, in its interiors. Fashion brands Stella McCartney, Adidas, and Lululemon, have also collaborated with Mylo™. Meanwhile, mushroom innovation company Mycoworks made a bag with Hermès, and with its recent series C funding, this is likely just the tip of the (mushroom) cap. When it comes to mushroom textiles, the innovation is ready to hit the market - now it’s all about scale.
Consumers are becoming aware of how their habits impact the environment, and in regards to packaging - it hits a particular soft spot. As a result, consumers demand more sustainable packaging materials that won’t end up in landfills.
As with textiles, the ‘root-like’ mycelium threads are used as a biodegradable packaging material. These can replace styrofoam, plastics, and other resource-intensive materials. Mushroom Packaging and Ecovative are two of the companies innovating in this space.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, mushrooms are having a moment on the plate too. Food forecasters put mushrooms on the list of trending ingredients for 2022 (just make sure you don’t try any of these), but the trend goes beyond the palate. Mushrooms are being developed as meat and protein alternatives too. In case you missed it, we wrote a report on this and next-generation protein - you can download it here.
Even with mushrooms becoming a mainstream trend across verticals, there is still an exceeding potential to be discovered and researched. When it comes to the Fungi Kingdom and innovation, perhaps it isn’t about inventing something new but exploring the “technologies” found in nature. After all, the magic of mushrooms served as the first “internet” - with mycelium being a channel for communication amongst plants. Not only that, mushrooms have been on the planet between 715 and 810 million years and have survived climate catastrophes like the ice age, so there are at least one or two things to be learned from mushrooms, namely: resilience.
*The information provided on the site is for educational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical advice.